Four rockets have struck inside a heavily fortified area in Baghdad housing foreign embassies including that of the United States, according to the Iraqi military, signalling an apparent end to a temporary halt in attacks by Iran-backed militias targeting Washington’s presence in the country.
The assault on Tuesday came less than an hour after the US announced plans to reduce its troop levels in Iraq from 3,000 to 2,500.
In a statement, the Iraqi military said the rockets that landed in the Green Zone – the seat of Iraq’s government and home to diplomatic missions – were launched from a neighbourhood in al-Alf Dar district in New Baghdad.
The statement did not mention casualties.
Iraqi officials, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, told The Associated Press news agency that at least two Iraqi security personnel were wounded in the attack. The extent of their injuries was not immediately known.
Reports spoke of several big blasts, followed by rapid-fire sounds and red flares lighting up the sky, indicating that the US embassy’s C-RAM rocket defence system was deployed.
Just heard what sounded like a rocket headed in direction of the Green Zone. It sounded like CRAM was deployed.
— Simona Foltyn (@SimonaFoltyn) November 17, 2020
Frequent attacks targeting the US embassy have led Washington to threaten to close its Baghdad diplomatic mission and sparked a diplomatic crisis before the US elections earlier this month.
In mid-October, Iran-backed militia groups announced they would temporarily halt attacks targeting the American presence in Iraq, including the embassy, on the condition that the US-led coalition troops withdraw from the country.
The US led an international coalition that invaded Iraq in 2003 and overthrew former leader, Saddam Hussein. It still has some 3,000 troops stationed across Iraq as part of a US-led coalition helping the country fight ISIL (ISIS) since 2014.
Since October 2019, dozens of rocket attacks and roadside bombs have targeted troops, foreign embassies and other installations across Iraq.
In response, the US bombed Kataib Hezbollah and other hardline pro-Iran factions it blames for the series of attacks.